DRAMA| Netflix’s Erased – Live Adaptation Done Right

Hello, hello again~
Last time I talked about my thoughts and disappointments on the 2016 Erased (Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, or “The Town Where Only I Am Missing”)live action movie from 2016 [See Here]. Continuing on, I’ll be talking about the Erased live action drama series that was recently released on Netflix on December 15, 2017.

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Here’s my recap of the plot for you:
The story follows Satoru Fujinuma, a 28-29 year old aspiring mangaka who works part-time as a pizza deliveryman. He somehow has the ability to suddenly go back in time, moments before life-threatening incidents. It basically allows him to prevent the incidents from happening.  He calls this phenomenon a “revival”. Things take a turn when his mother is murdered by an unknown assailant. Satoru is suspected of being the murderer, though there seems to be a connection to a serial kidnapping and murder case from Satoru’s childhood. The revival phenomenon kicks in. However, his ability has suddenly sent him back to his childhood years as his elementary school self. With this revival Satoru works with his childhood friends to try to not only prevent the tragedies of the past, prevent his mother’s murder, set things right, and get justice.

If I were to be honest, I had very low expectations when they first announced plans for the drama series. A big part of my low expectations came from my disappointment in Netflix’s live adaptation of Death Note. However, it’s also because decent live action adaptations are hard to come by. Well produced ones are even harder to come by. I’ve watched tons of live action dramas and movies; more than I can count. There have been very few that I felt were decent, let alone actually liked. Whether it’s a drama or movie, live action adaptations are tricky due to time constraint. Only so much of a story  can be fit within a certain time limit. Movies have a greater risk of failing due to having to fit so much of a story within 1-2 hours. Dramas have a bit more leeway since there’s usually at least 9-10 episodes. These episodes are typically 45 minutes to an hour long. An important thing I judge a live action adaptation by is the depth and impact of the story. While it’s understandable cuts and changes are made, the story and characters should still have some sort of depth. I do admit that I did start to have some sort of expectation of the Netflix series after seeing the trailer. If anything, it gave me hope that it would at least be better than the live action movie. Though I still had concerns since the 12 episode series had episodes that seemed to run at 26 minutes each. As an Asian drama junkie, I’ll tell you that this is considered incredibly short. Again, most Asian drama episodes are 45 minutes to an hour long. On the bright side, I thought it would be easier for me to watch with my busy schedule and all.

I managed to finish watching the entire thing within a day or two. I’m here to report that I was incredibly surprised and impressed. I’ve said it before: I’ve seen more live action movies and dramas than I can count. In my honest opinion, I found this to be the most well done live action adaptation of a series. Production-wise, it was very well done for a Japanese drama. I can’t tell you how many times the production of a drama or movie just looked incredibly cheap to me. It’s like one of those moments you see something and think “That looks hella fake…” The cinematography looked very well done as well. Simply put, the shots and scenery were really pretty. Despite the short episodes, I found the series to do a wonderful job of adapting the original manga. It followed the manga quite closely. It was as if I was truly watching the manga come to life. I even had quickly re-read a bit of the manga to make some comparisons. I was surprised to find that they had incorporated even the minor details from the manga. For example, in the beginning Satoru’s mom is wearing the same exact outfit as her manga counterpart. The series still had some minor changes and little things had been cut out. However, it surprisingly kept the key elements of the original. I understand having to make changes and cuts here and there. What’s important to me is that the story and characters still stand out, and have a amazing amount of depth to them. It should still feel like it has the soul or essence of the original that caught everyone’s attention in the first place. That’s where the movie was lacking. If I were to compare it, the movie’s story and characters felt quite shallow.

I’ve previously mentioned how friendship plays a big role in Erased. While the movie version established a good base of Kayo’s and Satoru’s friendship, it had completely cut out everyone else. Friends like Kenya, Hiromi, and Jun played important roles in the story and in affecting Satoru. The movie version either cut them out or really minimized their impact. For example, Kenya plays an extremely big role in assisting Satoru. Yet, the movie version was so greatly reduced that I didn’t feel like he was all that involved. However, the drama kept all the key parts of Erased. It really kept the integrity of the story and what gave those characters importance and depth. I was really happy to have the story presented in a way that wouldn’t lead to so many questions, feel like there were plot holes, or loose ends. It had all the things I felt were important, and I felt that the story and characters had a good deal of depth to them. Live action adaptations often feel so watered down and shallow. This is usually why people feel so disappointed in live action adaptations. This was definitely not the case with Netflix’s adaptation of Erased. I felt that the drama version sufficiently presented everything in a way that even an audience unfamiliar with the manga or anime could enjoy.

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Now I’m not saying this drama is completely perfect. I will admit that there was some awkward acting here and there. It’s a bit expected, since awkward acting is pretty common in many Japanese film and drama productions. It was a minor thing to me, and I felt that overall the acting was decent to pretty good. I was most impressed by the actress who played Kayo. She pulled off Kayo’s personality very well: seemingly cold and mature, but really still just an innocent young girl. Personally, I also preferred the movie version of Airi. Don’t get me wrong. The drama actress did a great job, but I felt like the movie version was closer to how I expected Airi to be. It’s hard to put into words, but the movie version felt brighter and warmer to me. The drama version of Airi felt more mellow and reserved to me. Some of the effects, like the fireworks and revival transition, looked incredibly cheesy. I think I actually had to pause and laugh for a second because it looked so silly to me. I also wished they included a bit of Kumi at the in the conclusion of the movie. On a funny side note, I understand the bad guy’s fake beard…but Sawada’s beard looks fake as hell.

On a side note I kept getting distracted because of Mio Yuki, the actress who played the drama version of Airi. At certain angles, she really reminded me of Chiaki Kuruyama. Chiaki Kuruyama is an actress and singer who has had roles in Battle Royale and several different dramas. Though you might recognize her from her most famous role as Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill (aka the batshit insane Japanese high school girl).

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Overall, this drama adaptation was very well done. I was completely amazed. It’s the first time I felt a live adaptation really keep the integrity of the original story, as well as its depth. I felt it was successful in terms of it being an accurate adaptation of the source material. While it did have things cut out, it didn’t feel like a completely watered down version of Erased. Sure, I would’ve liked an expansion on episodes and characters. Still, for what it was, it was a very well done live action adaptation. Fans of the anime version may disagree with me on a few things. However I was a fan of the original manga first. And I felt that this was the manga truly coming to life. I highly recommend giving it a shot. Have you watched the live action drama of Erased on Netflix? If so, let me know what you guys think!

On an extra side note:
I didn’t realize that the trailer on Netflix had a dubbed English track until after I finished the series. Now let me say one thing: I’m a subbed person. I just prefer subs over dubs for various reasons.The main reason being that I find it (incredibly) rare to find good, or even decent, dubbing. The problem I have with dubbing is usually because it sounds extremely ridiculous, and because it lacks or changes the meanings and feelings completely. However, I was like “Eh…whatever…I’ll watch it for lulz…” Let me tell you…it was not what I expected. It’s really bad, like comically bad. First off, you have Satoru’s dubbed voice done by a non-native English speaker; In other words, he had a very noticeable accent. Now, there’s nothing wrong with non-native English speakers. It’s just weird when basically everyone else in the trailer had almost perfect American-English accents (though I did catch some subtle parts that sounded a bit off — I’m bilingual and have exposure to several different languages…so I notice these things…). Young Satoru also sounds like Ash from Pokemon… It just sounded very awkward (emphasis on awkward), comical, and dramatic. Some parts sounded so emotionless. Basically it was pretty bad voice acting. I imagined they just pulled a bunch of people to halfheartedly do this at the last minute. It reminded me of bad lip readings and fan dubs from online videos. I suggest watching it if you’d like a good laugh. You can catch it on Netflix.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the BAYOG Crew!~

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